The Gordonvale scarab is one of two found in remote Australian locations that are frequently brought forward in support of secret visitor claims. The other, the Daly River scarab from the Northern Territory, is much better known, and has already been discussed in the Secret Visitors Project.
While the Gordonvale scarab appears to have been known about in that part of northern Queensland for decades, it only achieved publicity from about 1985 through Marilyn Pye’s investigations of alleged Egyptian sites near Walsh’s Pyramid, a naturally pyramidal mountain near Gordonvale. Since then it has been cited either in conjunction with Pye’s other claims or been picked up by others as demonstrating Egyptian presence in far north Queensland.
In this post, and the two following, I want to take a close look at the Gordonvale scarab and put forward what I think are the key elements of its discovery, and why it should not be considered as proof of Egyptian contact.
The Gordonvale scarab emerges
In her book Wholly Moses  Marilyn Pye describes her theory that Moses of the Bible was the older son of Pharaoh Seti I, and elder brother to Ramsses II. Through a series of events involving military failures and a palace coup Moses and the Midianites, who were the precursors of the Jewish people, fled to Australia to avoid Ramesses’s vengeance. This was the basis of the Biblical Exodus.
Marilyn Pye was drawn to the Queensland coast in March 1982 when she ‘was told told that 90 miles North of Cairns there was a golden pyramid’ [Pye pers. comm.]. In 1983 sites around Gympie caught her attention. However, she soon transferred her attention even further north again to a hill near Cooktown from 1986 onwards, , and it was during this series of well-publicised investigations along the Queensland coast that she first heard of the Gordonvale scarab [eg newspaper articles in Deem 1987].
Pye now believes that the Gordonvale scarab was most likely left by Moses or one of his followers as they journeyed down the coast from Cooktown [2011: p. 149]. Another alternative Pye offers later in her book is that, during his Australian travels, Moses visited Gympie where he found stranded South Americans building the pyramid there. After helping them to return home and visiting America himself, he came back to Australia. Pye speculates whether Moses died wishing to be buried, as a usurped pharaoh, near the best looking pyramid in Australia, the natural Walsh’s Pyramid, which forms a backdrop to Gordonvale. Was the scarab a marker of his resting place she asks? [Pye 2011: pp. 183 – 5].
The scarab is described by Pye in the form of annotated photos, reproduced in Deem [1997: p. 26]. Her notes say ‘This is a large heart scarab. At the time of burial a large scarab with the name of the deceased was placed in the heart cavity … The name is that of an unknown Egyptian royal from Ramesside period … c.1290 B.C. The name reads Usi – Men – Ma – Re.’
The engraved front of the scarab is confined within an elliptical line just inside the edge of the scarab. It contains a single cartouche, flanked by stylised ostrich feathers [feathers of Maat]. These also allude to the striped nemes headdress worn by pharaohs. Above the cartouche is what was probably meant to be a winged solar disk, but which is incorrectly rendered as a stylised bird. Pye identifies this as a Horus symbol. Below the cartouche is the large sign for gold [the upturned ‘D’].
The overall effect is a ‘face’ made up of pictorial elements. Based on photos the scarab measures about 75 mm long by 55 mm wide. No thickness or side view is available. The material from which the scarab is made is not certain.
According to Pye, the scarab came to light during the digging of a well at Gordonvale in about 1910-1912.
Figure 1. Engraved front and back of the Gordonvale scarab. Rear photo is blurred in original.
Digging up scarabs for money
Before we talk about the scarab let’s just spend a minute looking at the Gordonvale area at this time – just as the Great War was beginning.
Gordonvale grew sugar cane as its main industry, which the local Mulgrave Mill turned it into refined sugar and other products. When sugar cane was introduced in the late 19th century it was immediately attacked by various native pests, particularly the local native predatory beetle – Dermolepida albohirtum, which devastated the sugar cane both as a larval grub and in beetle form. Dermolepida happens to be a member of the Scarab family of beetles.
A chain of research stations was even set up through this region with the aim of improving crop yields and entomological research on the key crop grubs and beetles was one of their top priorities [Qld Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations 1951]. Experiments showed that cane fields with depleted beetle populations produced better and higher yields of sugar, so a bounty was paid to encourage the collection of beetles and grubs as a way of reducing their impact. Collectors were paid 1 shilling per pound on captured beetles and 6 pence on a pound of the grub larvae [Figure 2]. For context the local price of beer at this time was 4 pence a pint, so serious money was to be made. The quantities caught were enormous, with 2 ½ tonnes each of beetles and grubs being paid for under bounty in 1913 alone [Cairns Post 14.1.1914 p. 3].
Figure 2. Advertising the local bounty on cane beetles and grubs [Cairns Post 5.11.10: page 4]
It is a notable and relevant irony that Gordonvale and the northern Queensland sugar cane fields shared something unique with Egypt. They were the two places on Earth at that time where you could get money by digging up scarabs. I’ll return to this point later on.
The story continues in Part 2. [References and notes are at the end of Part 3].